Your child’s smile: Why baby teeth matter

By Nicole Holland, doctor of dental surgery and master of science, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine

 

“Why should I care about my baby’s teeth when they are just going to fall out anyway?”

Parents with young children already have a many things to worry about. Many may be wondering, “Are baby teeth really that important?”

(Image courtesy of Flickr user Nsrnatik.)

(Image courtesy of Flickr user Nsrnatik.)

Well, the answer is “Yes!”

Dental care is important for everyone, including young children. Primary teeth, also known as “baby” teeth, are an important part of your child’s growth. They prepare the way for healthy, permanent (adult) teeth.

So, when should you schedule your child’s first dental appointment? The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and American Dental Association both recommend that you take your child to see a dentist when the first tooth comes in, or no later than the child’s first birthday, to reduce the risk of dental problems.

Baby teeth usually start showing between 6 months and 1 year of age. The process of teeth coming into the mouth is known as “tooth eruption.” Baby teeth have a direct impact on the health and growth of your child. They help children to speak properly and chew healthy foods. Baby teeth also act as space holders and help guide the adult teeth into their correct places in the mouth.

Like adult teeth, your child’s baby teeth can develop cavities and other dental problems. The first adult teeth come in around 6 or 7 years of age. Losing baby teeth too early can cause problems when it is time for the adult teeth to come in. The dentist can help you create a plan to develop good oral health habits for you and your growing child. During the first dental visit, the dentist will check your baby’s mouth, teeth, and gums. He or she will show you how to properly care for your baby’s smile. Good oral health starts early!

 

Baby oral care tips

• Schedule your baby’s first dental appointment no later than his/her 1st birthday

• Clean your baby’s gums with water and a soft baby toothbrush or cloth

• Brush teeth with a soft toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste

• Limit the amount of sugary liquids in a baby’s bottle

• Make sure children do not swallow extra toothpaste. They should spit during and after brushing, when needed.

• Ask your dentist for a baby oral care plan

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